5 Superior Lakeside Campsites in California

From Bass Lake glamping to a 27-mile alpine tour

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe
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By Diane Rommel / May 16, 2019 8:37 am

There may be no better use of summer than camping next to a lake.

So today we’ve compiled our five favorite lakeside camping experiences up and down the state of California.

Just don’t forget your swimming shorts, because nobody likes the guy testing out the (literal) waters au naturel while they wonder how to tell him to put his pants back on.

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Best Overall: D.L. Bliss State Park

Let’s start with the biggest of big guns, shall we? Come here for paradigm-shifting views of Lake Tahoe. There’s little chance of getting away from it all here — all is here, in fact — but this is a fun, social place with pockets of quietude, including what might be the prettiest beach on all of Tahoe. Bonus: the glorious Rubicon Trail crosses the park, with unfolding views of the lake, one better than the next.

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Best Drive-In: Saddlebag Lake Campground

The prize of a drive-in campground is the price: ease of access means more company. At 10,000 feet, Saddlebag is the highest drive-in campground in the state, with spectacular views of the titular lakes and surrounding mountains. You won’t be alone up here, but there’s plenty of room for exploration — including a hiking trailhead reached by lake ferry.

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Best Hike-In: Rock Lake and Jamison Lake

You’ll pass Grass Lake on the way to your destination on this 6-mile out-and-back trail to Rock Lake and Jamison Lake; pick a view and grab a campsite. (The western shore fills faster than the eastern.) The water will be cold until well into the season, with snow on the ground into June.

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Best Lake Glamp: Bass Lake A-Frames

The décor here is spare but beautiful, and there’s (elegant) room for four (on queen-size beds) in these A-frame cabins above Bass Lake — as well as the ultimate glamping luxury, a full bathtub. Chilly nights mean lighting the wood-burning stove, or heading outside for marshmallows under the stars around the fire pit.

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Best Multi-Night Trip: Mineral King to Little 5 Lakes

This is a badass, 27-mile loop hike between multiple lakes; the vibe is so alpine that you might as well be in Switzerland. Twenty-seven miles isn’t a ton of miles, but there’s some killer uphill in there, plus some scree fields to manage toward the end. Pinto Lake, Columbine Lake, Spring Lake, Big 5 Lakes — it’s hard to beat.